The Need to Know How to Learn

The prompt this week is all about how Pitt has prepared me for this international experience, considering that I’m doing a web design internship, it’s kind of a difficult question. Computer science is fundamentally about foundations. For this internship, I’m working primarily in JavaScript with some additional HTML and CSS. Now it might interest the audience to know that as of the last day of finals this past semester, I had never done any meaningful work with any of those. For the people who are skeptical of my efficacy at the internship, I’d like to state that this past week I finished my assignment of recoding the subtitle feature of our video player which required me to constitute the rendering in both 2d and 3d space as well as make them flexible enough to function on any sized screen, from smart watch to movie theater. Mind you, that task took me way longer than it probably should have , but considering that I’d never used the language before a month and a half ago, I’d say that it was pretty good.

The reason that I say a month and a half is that starting from the first day after finals ended, I began teaching myself the basics of JavaScript as well as Node.js (a supporting library for the language). And although there’s only so much that I could learn in the two weeks I had before flying to Germany, I think that my best idea was putting together a binder of notes to allow me to very quickly reference many of the things that I might need to look up. When I sat down to try to write something for the first time at the internship, I think that the easiest way to describe how I felt was overwhelmed. I had about 100 files in front of me that had all sorts of information and I had no idea what any of them did and I still have no idea what may of them do. However, thanks to my education in Johnstown where Dr. Bilitski’s course showed me the power of excessive commenting (comments in code are notes only visible to programmers that often give insight into how something works), I spent many hours writing notes for myself as I slowly began to understand the innerworkings of what I was about to begin developing. I think that I have roughly 2800 comments so fa, as well as about 4-5 pages of hand written notes, primarily on quaternions, because I had to teach myself fourth dimensional math for the subtitles. If anyone wants a great video on the subject, I can respond to the request with a link.

Before starting, I’d have considered myself unqualified for the position that I’m currently working. I’d never worked in web design, had no experience with any of the languages or libraries that I’d be working with, and had very little experience overall, but what I’ve realized is that it’s not always about how much you know, but about how quickly you can learn. In this short month I’ve done nothing, but learn at an insanely accelerated rate. I’m still not an expert in the field, but I feel much more confident than I did in regards to being able to develop in this kind of environment.